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What is healthcare science?

healthcare scientistWould you like to be the first to make new medical breakthroughs? Then maybe a career in healthcare science could be for you. Read on to find out more. 

What does a healthcare scientist do?

Healthcare scientists - sometimes known as clinical scientists - work at the cutting edge of medicine, researching and developing new treatments and equipment. Most of their work is done in laboratories, although some does involve patient care. Healthcare science covers a wide range of things from tissue analysis to medical illustration, but is normally subdivided into three main categories: 

  • Life sciences involve things like pathology (the study of illness and disease), pharmacy, genetics and embryology, which is used in fertility treatments.  
  • Physiological sciences are all about the study of the body and organs. This covers things like audiology, neurology (or brain surgery) and critical care.
  • Clinical engineering and physical sciences focus on developing techniques and technology such as radiography, ultrasound and nuclear medicine for diagnosis and monitoring patients. 

How do I get into healthcare science?

There are a number of ways you can get into healthcare science, such as doing work experience in a laboratory, or a degree or postgraduate qualification in a related science subject. A number of universities also offer undergraduate degree courses in healthcare science subjects which are accredited under the NHS PTP (Practitioner Training Programme). These three year courses combine academic study with 50 weeks of work experience, but students will not be able to apply for NHS funding unlike medical or nursing degrees.

The NHS also runs the STP (Science Training Programme), a three-year course which involves academic study alongside practical work-based learning across a variety of disciplines, before deciding on a specialism in the final 18 months. Entry onto the STP course is dependent on having a minimum 2:1 degree in a relevant subject such as biology, biochemistry, genetics, physics or engineering, and STP students are paid an NHS salary for the course duration. Check NHS Jobs for more details.

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